Letter from the Count of Paris.
Sevilla, January 21st, 1877.
Rev. J. Wm. Jones, D. D.,
Secretary Southern Historical Society
Dear Sir: I am writing the account of the battle of Gettysburg, and consider that chapter as the most important, the most difficult to write of the whole work which I have undertaken. I share the opinion of those who think that the Confederate cause was not a lost cause from the beginning; that it may have been successful; and therefore I seek with great care to find out why it did not succeed. The battle of Gettysburg, coupled with the surrender of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, is, in that respect, the turning point of the war.
The Army of Northern Virginia, when it invaded the Northern States was more powerful than it had ever been before. The issue of the invasion was disastrous for the Confederate cause. This is a mere fact which neither a Southerner nor a Northerner can dispute. Therefore, I must show the causes of this disaster without any disparagement for the army or its leader, just as I pointed out the causes of the ill successes of McClellan and Burnside, and shall do the same for Hooker.
At present, as far as my studies of this period go, my opinion on the question is this: The mistakes which brought upon the Confederate arms the repulse at Gettysburg with its fatal consequences were the following:
lst. It was a mistake to invade the Northern States at all, because it stirred up their military spirit. The best chance of the Confederacy was the pecuniary exhaustion of the North, and not the exhaustion of its resources in men. The invasion was the deathblow to what has been called the Copperhead party. It called under arms thousands of men who would never have enrolled otherwise, and who became experienced soldiers in '64, and, moreover, it diminished for one or two years the resisting powers of the Confederate army.
2d. If the invasion was to be undertaken, only raiding parties should have been sent until the Army of the Potomac should have been defeated. It was a great mistake to bring her on the
Northern soil, where they fought ten times better than in Virginia. A real invasion, viz: the establishment of the Confederate army in Pennsylvania, with its communications well secured, was an impossibility as long as the Federal army was not crushed. The proof is, that as soon as the latter began to move, Lee, who had undertaken nothing but a raid on a too large scale, found himself so much endangered that be was obliged to fight an offensive battle on the ground where Meade chose to wait for him. He ought to have manoeuvered in Virginia so as to bring on a battle before crossing the Potomac,
3rd. The way in which the fights of the 2nd of July were directed does not show the same co-ordination which ensured the success of the Southern arms at Gaines' Mill and Chancellorsville.
4th. I do not understand why Lee, having gained some success on the 2nd, but found the Federal position very strong, did not attempt to turn it by the south, which was its weak place, by extending his right so as to endanger Meade's communications with Washington.
5th. The heroic but foolish attack of Pickett, on the 3rd, should never have been attempted. Longstreet seems to think that it was imposed upon him against his will by Lee. General Early says distinctly, in a paper published by the Southern Historical Society, that Longstreet deferred it so long that the Second corps could not co-operate with it as it would have done if the attack bad taken place early in the morning. I hesitate very much between these two opinions.
I put these questions to you in a letter which I wish you to keep private, at least, not to publish; because, in my sincere desire to judge fairly the Confederate army, you may help me by putting the same questions to some of the Confederate leaders who are still alive, and with whom you are in correspondence. The opinion of General Early, for whom I have the greatest consideration as a soldier, would be especially valuable for me. Of course I do not pledge myself to accept wholly any one's opinion, but it would be of the greatest importance for me to know what Confederate officers think now of the causes of their repulse at Gettysburg.
Believe me, dear sir, yours truly,
L.P. D'Orleans, Comte de Paris.
[Address: Chateau d'Eu Seine-Inferiense, France.]
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 5, pages 88-89)